Jean-Claude Rouget: landing his first Prix Jean Prat in 22 yearsPICTURE: Edward Whitaker
Zelzal dazzles in Prix
Jean Prat triumph
Report: France, Sunday
Chantilly: Prix Jean Prat (Group 1) 1m, 3yo colts and fillies
THE home nation celebrated victory in the Group 1 Prix Jean Prat ahead of the Euro 2016 final this evening with Jean-Claude Rouget's Zelzal landing a first success at the highest level.
Ed Walker's Stormy Antarctic fared best of the British challenge, finishing a fine second under George Baker, while Jeremy Noseda's Nemoralia, ridden by Frankie Dettori, stayed on in the closing stages to take fourth after racing last of all.
The market indicated Zelzal was a warm order for the £168,059 prize and it proved correct with the Al Shaqab Racing-owned son of Sea The Stars hitting the front inside the final two furlongs before being driven clear by Gregory Benoist, providing Rouget with a second win in the race - 22 years after Millkom landed the race.
Rouget said: "I don't know where he will go next. His great strength is his acceleration so we will play on that."
How it panned out
Simon Crisford's First Selection and Rouget's other runner, Positive Vibration, ensured there was a fierce tempo to the race with the pair two lengths clear turning in to the straight, tracked closely by the Clive Cox-trained Zonderland.
As the front-running pair, along with Zonderland, retreated, eventual third Spectre and Stormy Antarctic were left to battle for the lead, though not for long with Zelzal arriving with a telling run two furlongs out.
Under a hands and heels ride, Benoist steered Zelzal to a convincing two-length success with Stormy Antarctic battling on gamely for the runner-up spot.
Nemoralia was shuffled back to the rear of the field early on, and although she was almost ten lengths behind the leaders on the approach to the straight, she kept on well to finish fourth.
Walker delighted with Antarctic
Ed Walker, who was seeking his first winner in Group 1 company, was delighted with Stormy Antarctic's career-best performance following his disappointing effort in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at the start of the season.
Walker said: "I am just delighted to have him back after such a flop in the Guineas, which was heartbreaking. It was a worry with the injury and so to get him back into such great form is great. We were probably been beaten by a very good horse."
A return to France is a distinct possibility for Stormy Antarctic with the Newmarket trainer eyeing two possible races.
Walker said: "We know he is a proper horse and we now have plenty of options - it opens the world up massively. There is the Group 2 Prix Guillaume d'Ornano at Deauville or do you go to the Jacques le Marois? We will go home and regroup."